Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - World War Z

Directed by: Marc Forster

Produced by: Brad Pitt
Debe Gardner
Jeremy Kleiner
Ian Bryce

Screenplay by: Matthew Michael Carnahan
Damon Lindelof
Drew Goddard

Story by: Matthew Michael Carnahan
J. Michael Straczynski

Based on: World War Z by Max Brooks

Starring: Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos
Fana Mokoena
Daniella Kertesz
James Badge Dale
David Morse
Ludi Boeken
Matthew Fox

Music by: Marco Beltrami

Cinematography by: Ben Seresin

Editing by: Roger Barton
Matt Cheese

Studio(s): Skydance Productions
Hemisphere Media Capital
GK Films
Plan B Entertainment

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date: June 21, 2013 (United States and United Kingdom)

Running time: 116 minutes

Country(s): United States
United Kingdom

Language: English

Production budget: $190 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $460, 162, 000

Well, I told you it was only going to be two days. This'll be my last review for another week before I head off to Tullymore for a week, and I could be heading straight into twelve-hour shifts at the World Police & Fire Games, so needless to say I'll be busy, but will try and keep up with the reviews. I've got one for Monsters University on the horizon, and I've just acquired a copy of the 2012 remake of Maniac, starring Elijah Wood, so, for all the latest (and greatest, if I may be so bold) in movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie under my two blue moons is World War Z, an adaptation of the 2006 Max Brooks novel of the same name. To get the elephant out of the room here, I'm a big zombie-fiction freak. At present (through a good friend), I'm working my way through and greatly enjoying Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead comics, and I raised myself on a diet of the classic George A. Romero films, but also things like Re-Animator, 28 Days Later (though they aren't technically zombies!), Shaun Of The Dead and even up to Zombieland from a few years back (incidentally, though I myself often overlook it, give John Ajvide Lindqvist's Handling The Undead a look in if you want a good zombie novel). Originally slated for a December 2012 release, but numerous production troubles, including the Hungarian Counter Terrorism Centre raiding the warehouse where eighty-five guns to be used as props were stored and confiscated, as import documentation was misleading, claiming they were disabled but were in fact fully functional, leading to criminal charges (later dropped), and also a complete re-write of the third act that saw the production budget balloon from $125 million to $190 million, have ensured that the film has went through an uphill battle to hit our screens. Well, Paramount decided to take the gamble on releasing it during a crammed Summer release season, and here it is: basic plot goes that Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, also executive producer), a family man who has retired from his position as a United Nations investigator, is brought back into the fold, and has to travel the world in order to find the source and the way to combat a pandemic which could bring about a potential zombie apocalypse. Got that? Good.

To start with what's going right here, I must applaud the producers for having enough faith to invest a lot of time and effort into the project. This is a big, globe-trotting film, and it is key that we are able to appreciate and feel the planet-encompassing nature of the zombie epidemic. In terms of the plotting of key set-pieces, World War Z creates some thrilling moments. The scene on the plane, the whole Israel sequence and (in particular) the South Korean Camp Humphreys parts (the central hooker revolving around whether or not Gerry's phone is on silent) are ingenious and examples of genuinely intense set-pieces. Also, as the film's anchor, Brad Pitt gives a solid performance in what is, for all his specialisation, an everyman part, and Pitt delivers what is necessary of the role. It is through him that we feel the mass and burden that the character carries on his shoulders. Furthermore, it is an interesting yet effective gamble in casting largely unknown actors, as opposed to the usual A-list cast, and it pays off. It gives the film a truly international flavour that is appropriate for the size of the picture. Another part of the movie that works well is the sharp score by Marco Beltrami. It's no secret that Beltrami is a fine composer (The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada really turned me on to his work), but here his artistic flourishes do their earnest to make our experience of watching World War Z the emotional equivalent of walking a tightrope. Although he does a good job of making music that sounds big whenever it is required, it is in the film's quieter moments that the subtlety and aural intricacy with which Beltrami has designed his compositions, engaging us beyond the cerebral consciousness and into the subconscious levels, that Beltrami is at his best. Finally, although director Marc Forster has a proven track record in dramas, his previous work in a big-budget action film such as Quantum Of Solace, proved to be turgid and uninspiring affairs. Here Forster proves himself to be a director versatility, equally at home at the helm of a big-budget movie as he is behind the low-budget independent features where he made his name. It's an economical and efficient movie, and it is Forster who gives it that quality.

Now, much as I liked World War Z (and I have to say I did), there are a number of issues that deny it from being a great movie. For starters, although the script has some brilliantly orchestrated set-pieces, there is at heart a structural flimsiness to it. It often comes across as merely episodic, jumping from one zombie scenario to the next, with any semblance of plot or basil exposition being purely perfunctory and without much effort being invested in establishing a true emotional core. This is especially disappointing considering the credentials of Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard, but I think the key player at fault is Matthew Michael Carnahan, as the former two were only brought in to redraft the third act. Furthermore, the overall tone of the movie is as such that, although we have lots of wanton destruction, World War Z lacks the fundamental crunch(es) of the genre. I know this is a personal thing, but when I see a zombie movie, I want my blood and gore and grot and nasty bits and arms and legs and decapitations and ingestion of intestines! What we get is a PG-13, pacified film that is lacking in that extra oomph we expect with the genre. Although it's status as a zombie movie can be contested, I think that 28 Days Later did everything this does and more... with a budget approximately thirty-eight times smaller. 

However, despite these problems involving a largely episodic script that lacks a true emotional core and a PG-13, turned down a notch zombie-infestation, even with it's relative perfunctory and conventional nature, World War Z is still a pretty good actioner. We've got a strong anchor in Brad Pitt, and the producers were genuinely gutsy in delivering a near-$200 million zombie movie. Marco Beltrami's score keeps the film on a tightrope, and Forster's efficient direction stop the audience from getting bored too quickly. Finally, the film does contain some genuinely intense and scary set-pieces that, although negatively undercutting the manifest construction of the film, will be remembered as stand-out moments in contemporary blockbuster cinema.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.9/10 (How appropriate this movie get a number that eats itself!)

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Looking forward to relax (may just watch The Terminator tonight. Haven't watched it once this year, and seven months is way too long for the greatest film of all time...)

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Pacific Rim

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Produced by: Thomas Tull
John Jashni
Guillermo del Toro
Mary Parent

Screenplay by: Travis Beacham
Guillermo del Toro

Story by: Travis Beacham

Starring: Charlie Hunnam
Idris Elba
Rinko Kikuchi
Charlie Day
Robert Kazinsky
Max Martini
Burn Gorman
Ron Perlman

Music by: Ramin Djawadi

Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro

Editing by: Peter Amundson
John Gilroy

Studio: Legendary Pictures

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date(s): July 7, 2013 (Buenos Aires, Premiere)
July 12, 2013 (United Kingdom and United States)

Running time: 132 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $190 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $186, 786, 104

Hey hey, folks, I'm back... for two days! After a mighty fine trip to London visiting a good friend, I've got a short little stint back home which will consist of me laying around the house in between walking my dog, so, I'll try and bang out a few reviews in the process. August and September will be a bit more sporadic in terms of my activity, as I'm working the festival circuit (Summer's boom time in private security) and gonna be all over the United Kingdom, so, in order to catch up with all the latest in movies and my (oh my!) opines, you'll really need to keep your eyes posted!

Without further ado, I give to you ("Marshall!") my review for Pacific Rim. This is perhaps most notable for being the first directorial release of Guillermo del Toro since 2008's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, a grossly underrated movie that had the unenviable task of going up against that year's summer behemoths The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Since then, del Toro has spent two years working on The Hobbit, a project which he was originally intended to direct but left as a result of numerous delays in the production, has co-authored (with Chuck Hogan) the apocalyptic vampire novel's The Strain, for which FX have commissioned a pilot episode (directed by del Toro) with the prospect of a television series, launched Mirada Studios with Guillermo Navarro, Matthew Cullen and Javier Jimenez, and has been involved in a myriad of feature productions, such as 2013's Mama. So, although he has not been directing, needless to say the man is one busy bee, and with the prospect of numerous future projects, it's only going to continue. Developed by del Toro and Travis Beacham, with inspiration coming primarily from Francisco Goya's The Colossus and the kaiju/mecha genres of science-fiction films that emerged from Japan in the 1950s, Pacific Rim is set on Earth in the 2020s, in the midst of a war with Kaijus, monsters that have emerged from an inter-dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. To combat the monsters, the humans create Jaegers, humanoid mechas piloted by two humans by way of a neural bridge. The story follows Raleigh Becket, a former Jaeger pilot who is called out of retirement by his former commander, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), to co-pilot the Jaeger Gipsy Danger. Let's got rolling!

To start with what is good about Pacific Rim, I must say that the sheer scope and level of detail involved in the creativity of the whole film is nothing less than wholly admirable. The mise-en-scene establishes a world that, although perhaps outside the realm of possibility, is certainly not inconceivable, and their enthusiasm and effort towards the project is arresting. Not to sound like I'm glossing over things by grouping them together, I can't help but look at this as an overall collaborative effort, in that no one aspect stands out over the other or slips up and takes the rest down with it. Furthermore, there is a genuine seamlessness between the physical aspects of the mise-en-scene such as the costumes, the sets, the props etc. and the more bombastic visual effects, a rare quality in a big summer blockbuster, but present here. I mean, not to sound insulting, but this is essentially like the Michael Bay Transformers films, big robots and monsters hitting each other, but whereas Transformers felt like weightless blobs just throwing themselves about, here you feel every single blow, every jolt, every bit of robot and human straining in unison against the monsters. It's one of the few times in recent years a summer blockbuster has left me open-mouthed and in awe, to the point that I almost felt like I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. So, to the little people who don't normally get a shout-out and whose work is not usually acknowledged, thank you, because your work here is of great value and importance to the production. Another aspect of the film worth mentioned for praise is the ensemble cast. For me, there wasn't a single performance at fault here, each actor contributing their own piece to this wonderful tapestry. Charlie Hunnam is solid in the lead part as Beckett, Idris Elba carries some real weight and authority in his role and Rinko Kikuchi is terrific rounding out the primaries. On another note (and at risk of sounding a bit PC), it's a pleasure to see a female character put on an equal footing in an action film to her male contemporary's, and although she's proved herself worthy in the past, this could be a real breakout performance for Kikuchi, as she's a fine actress and deserves a prosperous career. Incidentally, although it's only for a short scene, Mana Ashida gives a great bit part playing the young counterpart of Kikuchi's Mako. It's a genuinely scary scene, and Ashida taps into the fearful child that exists in all of us one way or another. Also, in the supporting cast, Charlie Day, Burt Gorman and Ron Perlman deliver suitably entertaining parts in what would be essentially light comic relief in most other movies, but here ends up being among the film's most amusing moments. Old gargoyle-faced Perlman is always a fine onscreen presence, and he and Charlie Day have a fine chemistry that is almost reminiscent of the rapport that certain films establish between two actors in a 'buddy film' format, a fine tradition that extends back to the great Laurel And Hardy. Also worth mentioning is the cinematography by del Toro's regular DP Guillermo Navarro. I know once again I'm reverting back to my old argument of the fact that I can actually see what is going, but here I'm using it in a different manner in reference to the lighting. Most of the action sequences in the film take place at night time, so this is a movie that, with the wrong level of visibility, could have ended up looking like Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. However, the colours and tonal quality of the film give it a sort of neo-noir feel by way the magnificent palette of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. Furthermore, Navarro is a cinematographer who first and foremost knows how to bring out the character of the film, and thus we do feel this movie very much. In conjunction with both the cinematography and visual effects, the editors Peter Amundson and John Gilroy have done a fine job in cutting this movie. Take into account this is no walk in the part at 130minutes-plus, but they do this in such an efficient and economical way that there is barely any room for basil expository nonsense and we are left with a movie that, although a colossal behemoth, still feels like a big lump of raw meat. Another of the unique aspects to Pacific Rim is the original score by Ramin Djawadi. Even if I like a movie, I would say that alongside script, the aspect I criticise most in movies is the music, but here we have a right fine piece of work. It's a rollicking hybrid of pulsating synthesisers and traditional orchestral music for the most part, and matches the story appropriately in the aural sense. Also, it adds an element of momentum and pace to the proceedings, something cogently potent given that we need to feel the colossal power and weight of the film. To use a tried and tested word, when guest musician Tom Morello plays on the movie's central theme, the guitar is in harmony with the strings and brass sections and it just shivers up your spine because it is so BADASS! Definitely one of the best action movie scores in quite a while. Finally, although this film, like the medium, is a collaborative one, it is the passion of Guillermo del Toro driving this project. That is what separates him from the likes of Michael Bay, for unlike Bay, he injects his films with feeling and a key human element that engages the viewer. Pacific Rim is a far cry from anything that Michael Bay has ever put out, and that is because del Toro genuinely seems to care about this. He is a man who dares to dream, and it is our duty to follow him to the artistic Eden, because although it has been five long years since one of his films, by God, it is an absolute pleasure to have him back where he belongs. 

To put it lightly, I loved Pacific Rim. However, that is not to say that it is perfect or a masterpiece by any means. The main problem(s) with the film emerge from the script. It isn't meant to be chopped liver (lost on me, but hopefully not you guys), but even with all that's going good here, the script does come across as relatively flimsy. The central story arc of Charlie Hunnam's Becket is nothing new (down-and-outer brought back into the frame with predictable consequences), and most of the subplots involved head down the easy and road-well-walked route. Furthermore, some of the dialogue stands out as grotty and incredibly corny, especially for a movie that is for the most part a work of great innovation. Don't get me wrong, I can almost switch off how this is the one major flaw of the movie, but it would be amiss to deny that this a script with faults.

Despite a script that moves in predictable ways and some grotty dialogue, I found Pacific Rim to be a majestic work of terrific imagination. This is one of best established mise-en-scenes of a film world to come out in quite some time, with the costumes, props and production designers going all out to make an incredibly detailed world. The visual effects too are among the cream de la creme when it comes to the level of detail and attention to their craft that the artists have been investing in their work. Other technical departments, such as the cinematography and editing, are up to the standard established, and the score by Ramin Djawadi is supremely BADASS! Finally, though a collaborative effort, this is a film crafted by a man who dares to dream, and while I am disheartened by the underperformance of the picture at the box-office (I can't imagine Grown Ups 2 is worth my time, but I'm a masochist, so no doubt I'll end up reviewing it), I think that most who go to see this will bask in the sheer scope and scale with which Guillermo del Toro has bestowed us with Pacific Rim.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Cool (chilling and grilling to The Racoons' Run With Us: I blame Rutger Hauer for that one!)

P.S. If I was a real dick, I could blame the poor box-office on my home country's July 12th festivities, but I think there's more to it than that.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Act Of Killing

Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer

Produced by: Signe Byrge Sørensen
Music by: Karsten Fundal
Elin Øyen Vister (sound design)

Cinematography byCarlos Arango de Montis
Lars Skree

Editing byNiels Pagh Andersen

Janus Billeskov Jansen
Mariko Montpetit
Charlotte Munch Bengtsen
Ariadna Fatjó-Vilas Mestre

Distributed by: Cinephil
Drafthouse Films
Dogwoof Pictures

Release date(s): 31 August, 2012 (Telluride Film Festival)
28 June, 2013 (United Kingdom)
July 19, 2013 (United States, New York)

Running time: 115 minutes (theatrical version, reviewed cut)
159 minutes (director's cut)

Country(s): Norway
United Kingdom
United States

Language(s): Indonesian

Production budget: $1, 000, 000 (estimated)

Box office revenue (as of publication): (Unknown)

So folks, I don't know how y'all feel, but I certainly feel like time is passing by like a mother the past few years. I wonder if that has anything to do with my being bored and not working (bit of a dry patch right now, August'll be pretty full on!), but my guess is that I'm suffering from that post-graduation existential angst that had me rambling on about Benjamin Braddock a couple of weeks ago and "Hello, darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again," and what have you. In the midst of this dubious state of mind, I've been to the cinema a bit, having now seen not just this, but also Pacific Rim, World War Z and Monsters University. I hope to see more, but I reckon things'll be a bit more sporadic over the next month and a half, so I have to ask you to make an extra-special effort to, as always, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is the documentary feature by Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act Of Killing. The film has already racked up some serious credentials in terms of it's reputation, with critiques abound both praiseworthy and derogatory. On the pros, Cosmo Landeman, the now-former resident film critic of The Sunday Times' Culture magazine gave it a rare five-star rating (I've been reading that paper since I was like ten, and believe me, that is quite a feat), and Werner Herzog, who saw the film before signing in the executive producer role for which he is credited, said, and I quote, "it is unprecedented in the history of cinema." On the negative side, it has been argued that the film lacks the historical context necessary to truly explore it's subjects and some felt that the film not only glorifies mass murder, but that Oppenheimer tricked his subjects into bad faith. So, having gotten the serious baggage out of the way, here's a brief conceptual synopsis: following the failed September 30th Movement in 1965 Indonesia, gangster Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry were chosen by the government to lead the most notorious death squad in North Sumatra as part of the killing in the Indonesian massacre of 1965-68. Their activities saw them become revered as founding fathers of right-wing paramilitary group Pemuda Pancasila, members of whom include government ministers, boasting about their corruption. Basically, director Oppenheimer proposes to these men that the only they can depict the truth of the brutality of their killings is that they shoot their own personal re-enactments of the murders, and they jump eagerly at the opportunity to do. You can see already how things are getting a bit strange here, I gather?

As you can see, I went into the movie with all this in context, and while I highly respect the opines of Sensei Herzog, I understand that no one man's word is gospel, so I did go in with an open mind. However, I'd be lying if I said that the great master was wrong, because this is a magnificent piece of artistry and quite possibly the best film I have seen since my 2012 movie of the year, The Turin Horse. That reads the end of a review, but hear me out and I'll try to sell you on this one. The first thing to say about the movie is the fact that despite it's being about a very serious topic and shedding light on some genuinely horrible human rights atrocities, I found it be a very watchable, indeed, entertaining film. Oppenheimer was criticised by some for the stance (or lack thereof) he took with his subjects, but I think that is key to the enjoyment of the work. Dan Hewitt in Empire Magazine recently wrote (I'm paraphrasing) that documentary film has become synonymous with polemic, and what Oppenheimer does is quite the opposite. We see these gangsters gloat and revel in the sheer narcissism with which they approached their murders, often inspired by their favourite movies from Hollywood, and there is some Goodfellas/Sopranos-esque humour in watching them talk about killing. Don't get me wrong, it's incontrovertibly disgusting what they did, but by God, like those previously mentioned works, did they have a fun time doing it. As such, although I was surrounded by a largely silent theatre, I was laughing harder than I do at most comedies. This depiction by Oppenheimer of truth from a near-complete level of objectivity gives The Act Of Killing, for all it's (purposeful) contrivances, a feeling of authenticity that many films are lacking. Also, unlike many of the reflexive qualities and intertextuality that most documentary filmmakers try to inject into their films, this reflexiveness does not intrude on the seamless stream of our experience here. The 'films' that the gangsters make are propagandistic in their nature, (re)inventing themselves in the vein of their favourite western, gangster and musical heroes. They too, aware of the doom and gloom seriousness of many of these types of movies, talk about how they must have humour in their films so people don't get bored watching. However, what would normally come across as simple farce in their amateur endeavours ('Anwar's Nightmare' is a real treat) is farcically surreal and mesmerising as we explore, from our numerous degrees of separation, their own explorations of their heinous crimes. It all culminates in a mind-boggling sequence late in the movie (which I will not do the dishonour of spoiling) that leaves you genuinely lost for words and feeling stuck as to how you're meant to react to this movie. Although I understand I have perhaps deviated from my usual approach of cinematography, music, editing etc. (all of which are done with extraordinary harmony and seamlessness, particularly for a contemporary documentary, a medium almost bounded by default to postmodernity), I feel that The Act Of Killing is a movie that garners a different analytical study, as the film itself does challenge the art form of cinema in a way that I have never seen done before. It's hard to be a genuinely original movie these days, but this proves that the medium has miles yet to go! The final major thing I'd like to say about what is good about The Act Of Killing (it's a highly textured movie, but I'll leave the details for you folks to discover) is that despite all of the humour and the fact that it is a perversely entertaining film, there is an undercurrent of high tension that runs throughout. We the audience feel like we're walking a tightrope, and eventually we fall off and it hits you on the head with the full, sheer weight of the horror of these human rights atrocities. I'm sure it probably comes at different points for different people, but for me it came during the set-up for one of the gangsters' re-enactments, and we are informed quite blatantly of the artifice, yet despite this, it still made me jump, scared me like I haven't been scared watching a movie for some time. It comes crashing down over your head like a giant wave, that the whole exploration of evil is ambiguous, that it's not something perpetrated by despotic raving monsters, but in fact oftentimes by normal people. The blank waters that remain in the tide, well, it's up for us as to what we make of it.

Now, as you've guessed no doubt, I absolutely loved this film, and I will very passionately get behind trying to promote it as best I can, but there are a few things that should be pointed out, not necessarily as faults, but as elements that certain members of the audience may find it hard to get past. I understand fully and respect that there will be people out there (although the general critical consensus would argue otherwise) who will not like this movie. It is a challenging piece that certainly prods you into a reaction, and I defy anyone to leave the whole experience without a reaction. That said, there will be those who cannot abide the form and objectivity with which these admittedly detestable subjects are approached.

With that taken into account, I still say that this is an outright masterpiece, the first that I have seen after my return to reviewing in May. It's genuinely one of those movies that despite all the rambling, discussion and analysis I've subjected it to, I still feel I have only glanced the surface, touched the precipice of just how damn good this is. So much so, in fact, that I must say, my plans are going to extend beyond the medium of film criticism in order to ensure that people are able to see this movie. It's a mesmerising, bizarre and (surprisingly) entertaining piece of cinema, and one of the few legitimately unique experiences you can get from a contemporary motion picture.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9.5/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Buoyed over (believe me!)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Man Of Steel

Directed by: Zack Snyder

Produced by: Christopher Nolan
Charles Roven
Emma Thomas
Deborah Snyder

Screenplay by: David S. Goyer

Story by: Christopher Nolan
David S. Goyer

Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster

Starring: Henry Cavill
Amy Adams
Michael Shannon
Kevin Costner
Diane Lane
Laurence Fishburne
Antje Traue
Ayelet Zurer
Christopher Meloni
Russell Crowe

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography by: Amir Mokri

Editing by: David Brenner

Studio(s): Legendary Pictures
DC Entertainment

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Release date: June 14, 2013

Running time: 143 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $225 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $619, 681, 205

Ahoy there, strangers! As I am heading to London this week and after a short return for a couple of days, I'm taking my Scouts for their summer camp, I'm having to cram a lot of work in this week, both in terms of watching movies and reviewing them. Already I've got to see Pacific Rim (more of which when I get to that one), and tomorrow I've World War Z penned in and for Wednesday I reckon I'll be seeing Monsters University, and perhaps there'll be another one got in there before I head on holiday, so, for more reviews and what have you, keep your eyes posted!

Today's movie under the rubber glove (it came into my head, make of it what you will) is Man Of Steel, the latest attempt to reboot the Superman character. To put this in context, I'll have to say that I am a Superman fan, both of the movies and the original DC comic source. Incidentally, one of my favourite interpretations of the character recently was Kick-Ass writer Mark Millar's Superman: Red Son, which does a simple but effective what-if, being that Superman lands not in Kansas but in a Ukrainian farm in Soviet Russia, but becomes this brilliant political and psychological interpretation of the character, but, alas, I digress... Anywho, this latest onscreen outing for Supes comes by way of Christopher Nolan (and Emma Thomas), the greatest living filmmaker and helmsman of The Dark Knight Trilogy, and a not-so great living filmmaker in Zack Snyder. In fairness, 300 was good, but everything else, and I'm still including Watchmen, is just dispensable, especially Sucker Punch. Although the preferred option would be to have Nolan direct, we've got Snyder in the chair and despite this, I went in thinking with Nolan behind this and the fact that I'm into the character's story, this'll be a good movie. The backstory is more or less the same with a few variations: Krypton is facing destruction, and General Zod (Michael Shannon) goes rogue on the ruling council, and following this coup, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) send their newborn son Kal-El's spacecraft, along with the genetic codex of the Kryptonian race, to the planet Earth. After this prologue, we find the now thirty-three year old Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) living a nomadic existence, hiding his identity and struggling with the loss of his adoptive father. However, the threat of the public exposure by way of the Daily Planet's Lois Lane (Amy Adams), his discover of a Kryptonian spaceship buried in the Arctic and certain non-negotiable demands by a returning General Zod, Kent is forced to take responsibility for who he is. Got it? Good!

First things to say about the good stuff here is that some of the supporting actors are cast into roles in which they perform well. Russell Crowe has gotten to the age where he can pull off the father-figure role with suitable authority, and his take on Jor-El is pretty good. Also well-cast is Diane Lane, whose Martha Kent fills the void of matriarchy with a real human quality. Most impressive in the cast though is Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent. Costner's performance is understated appropriately, for this is the kind of part that could have been way too melodramatic. Carrying off the part with legitimacy, the character's role in shaping the future-Superman is integral to the story and Costner does with a genuine sincerity of purpose. Another element of the film which impressive was the Hans Zimmer score. The great maestro is a welcome replacement by-way-of-Nolan to Snyder's usual go-to composer Tyler Bates. It's his work on the film that does the most to convey the sense of scope and power necessary for the Superman story. Although clearly taking a page from his work on The Dark Knight Trilogy, Zimmer gives his Man Of Steel compositions enough of it's own personality to make it clearly it's own thing, and what he does here is arguably the best thing about Man Of Steel. Finally, although I have quibbles (more of which in due time), the budget of the film has been clearly well-spent on the special effects and action sequences. The terraforming sequence is a highlight in this regard, and as a general note the special effects lack the hokiness that sometimes come with these blockbuster aesthetics, regardless of the budget, so, hey, well done to the special effects guys!

However, and this is where things get started, although I did like a number of elements in Man Of Steel, it is a largely troublesome film, the key issues of which emerge from (I know I'm going after my usual target!) the messy script. For starters, the film is scripted as such that it feels like two different movies at different points in a franchise crammed into one movie. It has the whole origin story thing going on (which clearly scribe David S. Goyer has been taking notes from his Batman Begins work), chopping back and forth between time and eschewing a lot of traditional chronological order. On the other hand, the whole crux of General Zod's villainous motivations and the driving force of the plot itself feel like that of a sequel. When the two attempt to coalesce, they don't merge as well together as they are clearly intended, and as such, the movie feels a bit all of the place. The second main issue to emerge from the script is the problem of characterisation. Despite having all this emotional baggage, Goyer fails to convince that this Superman story is doing anything new and interesting above and beyond what we have seen happen in so many of these superhero movies before (not just superhero films, mind), things about troubled souls who have to shoulder a burden they didn't ask for but are nevertheless forced to take responsibility for their purpose/destiny. Also, the whole Clark Kent/Lois Lane subplot is given nary any time to develop to develop into a legitimate romantic angle. Really, Cavill and Adams spend very little on time onscreen together, and whenever they do, it's all basil-expository nonsense to rattle the plot forward. I defy anyone who believed that these two could ever potentially fall in love, apart from the fact that Henry Cavill looks buff and what have you. Furthermore, General Zod's arc falls far from the genuine convictions that Goyer is attempting to strive for. I mean, it's not by any means something to go by, but at least you had some sort of belief in John Harrison as a character in Star Trek Into Darkness. Here, the antagonist's motivations are lacking. This scripting issue also leaks into the performances of the central players. Henry Cavill may look the part, but all he's given to do apart from look good and fight a bunch of bad guys consists of him brooding and talking morosely about all the crap that he's going through to get to the point where he becomes Superman. Amy Adams too suffers, lacking some of spunk required to play the part of Lois Lane, who is meant to be a pretty gutsy reporter for all intents and purposes, but instead seems like a poorly-depicted archetypal fish out of water, or rather the wrong end of the 'curiosity killed the cat' adage. Even the mighty Michael Shannon, who in the many films I've seen him in has never been anything but an engaging and genuinely intriguing screen presence, instead comes across a sub-par villain who eulogises in a way that ties into the film's borderline-Gaian environmentalism and fills it with a dullard's turn of Shakespearean drivel (sorry Michael, I love your work, and I can safely say it wasn't your fault!). The final issue that overarches into what's wrong with the film (and I know that this is a personal thing) is how everything is approached with the utmost of seriousness. The thing about the Superman character is that not only is he a terrifically politicised figure that has all this baggage, but he's also a great and is supposed to carry a sense of charm and charisma. I think Christopher Reeve was the perfect Superman, pitching it just right between taking it seriously and not taking it seriously, and it'd be a daunting task try and touch that, but to give the character the whole Dark Knight treatment is out of touch with what it's about. The film is also shot in such a way by Amir Mokri that a lot of the hues in the lighting (and I'm sure post-production had something to do with this too) ensure that the movie has a lot of the colour desaturated. That means that I couldn't tell whether or not the sets were really wonderful because frankly the film was so dark (pun intended) that I couldn't see anything. Even the iconic Superman costume is indued with the film's overarching shades of grey tonality. Like I said, it's a personal thing, but this is not the treatment that the Superman character requires, or deserves. 

Well, as you might have guessed from the general level of detachment in my review (for which, I do not apologise), the feeling was mutual for the film. Granted, you do get the impression that the filmmakers are trying to do something new with the character, giving it the whole Dark Knight treatment. It also has some things going for it, including a strong supporting cast, particularly in Kevin Costner, whose character is the only one sufficiently fleshed out, a fine Hans Zimmer score and some stunning special effects, particularly the terraforming sequence, so I'll give it that. However, the script by David S. Goyer is the primary fault, impacting on a narrative level, the characterisation problems extending also to the actors (how is it possible that Michael Shannon is bad in a movie?) and an overall problem with the uber self-serious tone of the film, which shrouds everything not in the iconic red cape, but an ugly grey cloak that would be more befitting the sour curd that Charles Foster Kane becomes. My good friend at Danland Movies said to me that critics didn't know how good they had it with Superman Returns, and I couldn't agree more. It has some good moments, but Man Of Steel is nevertheless a misguided enterprise with a hell of a lot of excess bloat to boot!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Hungry (it's annoying me, but I'm always wanting to eat of late!)

P.S. Go read Mark Millar's Superman: Red Son!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - This Is The End

Directed by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Produced by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg
James Weaver

Screenplay by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Story by: Seth Rogen
Evan Goldberg

Based on: Jay and Seth versus the Apocalyspe by Jason Stone

Starring: James Franco
Jonah Hill
Seth Rogen
Jay Baruchel
Danny McBride
Craig Robinson

Music by: Henry Jackman

Cinematography by: Brandon Trost

Editing by: Zene Baker

Studio(s): Mandate Pictures
Point Grey

Distributed by: Colombia Pictures

Release date(s): June 12, 2013 (United States)
June 28, 2013 (United Kingdom

Running time: 106 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $32 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $96, 800, 000

Aloha there folks, it is still hotter than a mothercanucker (sorry, Canada!) over here in Belfast, and aside from a trip to Stormont with the dog (Belfast Hound Around, check it out!), being one pasty white dude that burns like a vampire with the slightest exposure to good sun rays, I've confined myself to the house for reviewing. Everything's burning up in here: my skin, my dog, my bedroom's like a microwave, Tricolour's (oh, snap!)... Also, me and the good gent at Danland Movies are presently engaged in an interesting discussion as to the pros and cons of Quentin Tarantino on my Facebook page (I'm not gonna tell you where to look, do your research, lazy fool!). So, for movie related banter and just general bullhick, watch this space, and keep your eyes posted!

So, today's movie up for analysis proves to another comedy, This Is The End. Even before the movie went into production, it had an interesting history, given that the movie is based on Jay And Seth Versus The Apocalypse, a nutty little short that served as a pitch for the final product. The big concept of This Is The End is essentially that a bunch of actors portray fictionalised versions of themselves in the midst of the rapture. Get it? Good! Jay Baruchel arrives in Los Angeles to visit his friend Seth Rogen, and the head to a housewarming party hosted by James Franco, and, uncomfortable being around people like Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Michael Cera, Craig Robinson, Baruchel, accompanied by Rogen, heads out to get a packet of cigarettes when all hell breaks loose. The two decide to run back to Franco's house, and thus begins our picture...

Starting with the good, I'll say for one thing that it's an interesting concept having these guys portraying themselves in the midst of the apocalypse, but the fact that they also manage to follow through with it and make a sufficiently solid comedy that is entertaining to people besides those involved is commendable. The Rogen and Evan Goldberg screenplay pulls no punches in terms of refusing to massage the actors' egos, and it's interesting in that you could have the actor's portraying regular people instead of these self-caricatures, but that's an element that gives the film a sense of reflexivity. The cast themselves are also uniformly strong. Franco does an amusing take on the media's take on him, depicting himself as a pseudo-intellectual bumhole, and Danny McBride's even more insane as himself than he's 'onscreen.' The standouts are Jonah Hill, who goes completely in the opposite direction, portraying himself against his onscreen fast-talking and potty-mouthed persona as a soft-spoken, sensitive guy who shows empathy with others, and Craig Robinson, in his own way, manages to steal the show, perfectly capturing the fact that these guys are a bunch of sissies, his regular screaming never failing to conjure up a hearty chuckle. Also a welcome surprise is the score by Henry Jackman. Seeing as how I've had the extreme displeasure of watching two comedy's recently scored by Mr. Murder-By-Numbers Christophe Beck, and here we have music full of personality. Realising the inherent absurdity of absurdity within the artifice of this picture, Jackman harks bark to some of the ridiculousness of 1950s b-movies with anachronistic leitmotifs being used to give this another layer of dexterity. At it's best, it reminded me of the work of the great Ira Newborn, who scored some of the best comedy films of the 1980s. Also, I admired some of the production design and the editing of the film. I think there is a purposefulness in making this come across as a sort of b-movie throwback, as a lot of the design, editing and indeed the effects look kind of hokey and constructed for comedic purposes. Finally, although Rogen and Goldberg have had previous experience as writer's and producer's, both as a team and otherwise, the two make a strong efficient directorial debut in This Is The End. It's the kind of movie that with all of it's various tangibles could have fell flat on it's face, but the two helm the project with confidence and carry it through to, well, the bitter end (puns, aren't very punny, duh?).

These kind words being said, though I liked This Is The End, it does have a number of flaws that deny it from ascending to the status of a great comedy. For instance, though the script has a lot of great things going for it (the self-reflexivity, the self-depracting tone etc.), there are issues with it. For instance, the first act, which takes too long to get into the proverbial heart of darkness, does lag, and although I've obviously been using 'self-' terms, there's an element of self-mythologising in this first part that doesn't back up the deconstruction of the self thereafter as appropriately as it should do. Also, although it's a minor thing, I wasn't won over by the overall inclusion of the Backstreet Boys, which headed too much into the direction of overkill. I'm not gonna spoil anything, but I'm just not a fan of these poxy-comedic dance sequences. Furthermore, although it's obviously meant to be the end of the world, there was something about Brandon Trost's cinematography here that struck me as being too darkly lit. There's a difference between low-key lighting and a low level of visibility, and this at times leant to far towards the latter. Finally, although it's a success in many ways, as I said, it fails to break through into the pantheon of greats.

Despite the first-act issues, an element of self-mythologisation, Backstreet Boys 'references' that head into overkill dance sequence(s) and cinematography that is too darkly lit, This Is The End is, for the most part, a very good comedy. The script though flawed, has a lot of layers to it, and the cast themselves, particularly Craig Robinson and Jonah Hill, are engaging company. The big surprise (especially given that comedy scores often suffer the most) is the fine score by Henry Jackman, that harks back to 1950s b-movies and at best is reminiscent of the work of Ira Newborn in the 1980s. Finally, Rogen and Goldberg prove themselves a solid duo at helming a project from the director's chair (a guess they're drawing straws on that too, given that the term does not extend beyond 'chair - singular') and that although they're best work is probably in front of them, this is a good place to start, delivering a very entertaining comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Bleary (long week with no work to break up the time...)

P.S. The studio name 'Mandate Pictures' is always worthy of a chuckle...

Friday, 12 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Internship

Directed by: Shawn Levy

Produced by: Vince Vaughan
Shawn Levy

Screenplay by: Vince Vaughan
Jared Stern

Story by: Vince Vaughan

Starring: Vince Vaughan
Owen Wilson
Rose Byrne
Max Minghella
Joanna Garcia
John Goodman
Dylan O'Brien
Jessica Szohr

Music by: Christophe Beck

Cinematography by: Jonathan Brown

Editing by: Dean Zimmerman

Studio(s): Regency Enterprises
Wild West Picture Show Productions
21 Laps Entertainment
Dune Entertainment

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Release date(s): June 7, 2013 (United States)
July 4, 2013 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 119 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $58 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $63, 250, 984

Rightio, it's the twelfth of July, which means in my country either batten down the hatches like there's an ongoing game of Nazi Zombies or get out there and join Lord Summerisle dancing around various flaming effigies. I'm open-minded enough to say let people celebrate in their own way, but for me, this means good weather out the back with a cold one, a review or two, and a bit of gardening getting done.  Even still, with Belfast being put on hold for a day or two (Pacific Rim had to open today of all days!), I'll be putting out a few reviews. I've got This Is The End, Man Of Steel and The Act Of Killing on the way for definite, and hopefully I'll get some more done, as WWE Money In The Bank is this weekend, I'm heading to London on Thursday, have my Scout troop on camp at the end of the month and I'll be working most of August, so, although it may a bit more sporadic in terms of reviewing, I'll do my best, and you do your best to keep your eyes posted!

Okay, preamable ramble done, let's get crackin' with The Internship. The second collaboration between actors Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson after 2005's Wedding Crashers, the film has already been the source of much ridicule, for one as a bloated advertisement for Google, and also as a poorly timed release, both given the ubiquitousness of the Internet/Google so it's not a hip new comedy and that this is the kind of comedy that would have been done in the early-to-mid 2000's. This was parodied to brilliance in a great video by The Onion entitled 'The Internship' Poised To Be The Biggest Comedy Of 2005. The film is directed by Shawn Levy, who has a bit of a mixed bag of tricks, but was responsible for the wholly underrated, wholly overlooked and wholly entertaining 2011 Hugh Jackman pic, Real Steel. Anyone who can make a gem like that deserves to be given a chance, no matter how terrible their latest movie looks. In The Internship, Billy McMahon (Vaughan) and Nick Campbell (Wilson) lose their jobs as watch salesmen when their employer goes out of business (it being another of those post-2008 'frighteningly relevant' economic crisis plot devices!). Billy, unbeknownst to Nick, decides to apply for an internship, enrolling the two of them for prospective employment at Google, for which they are accepted due to their unorthodoxy. As you might guess, I went in with low expectations, so, let's see how things unfolded.

Starting with the good (believe me, there is), I must say that I went into the film with all that excess baggage and then some, thinking that this was going to be a thoroughly noxious two hours. However, despite this, I surprised myself and my good pal over at Danland Movies when about half an hour in we concluded that we both were enjoying the film. It's one of the strangest experiences I've had at the cinema, in that I walked out kind of shell-shocked at just how much I enjoyed it. I understand it's essentially a two-hour advertisement for Google and is at minimum five years too late in terms of the basil exposition set-up stuff, but I did enjoy the film. While Owen Wilson is reliable, Vince Vaughan is the real surprise, given that his presence onscreen is usually the harbinger for comedic desecration. It's obvious that there is a sort of self-awareness given that Vaughan is acting here as a guy whose speciality is sales, and the good thing about this is that oftentimes the script works around Vaughan just gibbering on, talking complete bullshit, which is what he does very well. Also, as far as an onscreen duo, Vaughan and Wilson have great chemistry, which does lead me to wonder as to why they haven't worked together more often. As far as the script is concerned, I know it isn't chopped liver (given that I don't eat meat, that's probably lost on me, but you get the point), but there are some well-written set pieces and dialogue. It's obviously outdated humour, but the interview segment with Vaughan and Wilson struggling to get to grips with videoconferencing is a standout moment, especially given how terrifying Vince Vaughan looks in close-up with the shot being from the perspective of the computer's webcam. The dialogue too, with the two messing up now-ubiquitous phrases and their obviously amateur approach to things despite pretending to be more experience and mature than their younger fellow interns is rather funny. On a personal note, although I'm very much "on the line" (hence my chosen format for reviewing), I am in many ways a technological luddite, so I did find their struggles endearing. Furthermore, it is also a film that is not afraid to be self-deprecating, Vaughan in particular being on the receiving end of numerous jokes about his desire to hog the free workplace puddings. Finally, although he has a mixed bag at times, Shawn Levy once again proves that he is, when working with the correct material, a director who can direct well and deliver an entertaining movie. His Real Steel became the namesake for my Most Overlooked Film in my annual awards, and his latest here might be early shoe-in for the win come next award season.

However much I have talked well of this film, especially given how pleasantly surprised I was, I'm still willing to acknowledge that it's a movie that does have a share of flaws. The script by Vaughan and Jared Stern has some great stuff, but it is also highly predictable (block A fits into the space A part of the Early Learning Centre toy), going in places we have seen done a thousand times before (literally, in my case!). Also, while the first two acts are uniformly solid, the third act does lag seriously and tries to put in this false twist in the tail that things might not actually turn out as well as they should so as to create some dramatic tension. As such, not only is it a poor third act, it also adds significantly to the seriously bloated two-hour running time. Another thing that doesn't help this third act problem is the utterly saccharine score by Christophe Beck. A regular thorn in my side, this the second film in as many months I've had to see with this dribblesome murder-by-numbers bore compose a film, and once again, he fails with flying colours. You've heard the old adage "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all," right? Well, it applies to music as well. My final issue is that as a whole, the film, while good, does not aspire to be anything great, and the filmmakers seem content just to let this play second fiddle to great contemporary comedies such as Rango, The Artist, Toy Story 3, Cemetery Junction and I Love You Phillip Morris. 

Despite my feelings that the script was predictable, that the third act was significantly weaker than the first two, that it has a saccharine score by Christophe Beck and that it's content settling for second best, The Internship is a better comedy than I could have possibly hoped for. Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson have great onscreen chemistry, and there are some finely written set-pieces, with the videoconference job interview being a highlight (Will Ferrell also makes a welcome and suitably shameless cameo), and director Shawn Levy proves that with a decent enough script and cast to work with that he can efficiently make an entertaining movie. Although it's nothing special, it's far better than anything you'd expect it to be, and I left the cinema grinning like a cheshire cat knowing that I'd enjoyed a good comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis (Still) hot

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Movie Of The Month: Sabbatical/May-June 2013 - Evil Dead

Like a lot of horror movie fans, I walk into any horror remake with an element of trepidation, especially given my past experiences with cinematic butchery of classic films (I'm looking at you, Platinum Dunes!). Aside from the central premise, it goes completely in it's own direction, with Fede Alvarez making a masterful debut feature and the character of Mia (played to excellence in a star-making turn by Jane Levy) has a great degree of complexity. One of the best horror movies in recent memory and a right good rollick! Groovy!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.4/10

Runner-Up: Good Vibrations - Flawed, but more good going for it than bad. Great lead performances by Richard Dormer and Jodie Whittaker, 1970s Belfast being lit like a moody noir by Ivan McCullough and featuring a terrific soundtrack. 

Honorable Mention: Beware Of Mr Baker - Not the best of documentary biographies, but a fascinating insight into the fascinating character of Ginger Baker

Anomaly: The Great Gatsby - I had to eschew my traditional reviewing format to get my point across with this movie, so, despite my relatively negative conclusions, I'm going to have to watch it again on the basis that it did present a genuine challenge as far as analysis is concerned.

Second-Most Deadly Disease: The Hangover Part III - The thing is is that the first two Hangover movies provoked a reaction: negative, yes, but a reaction nevertheless! Here, I was bored to tears!

Avoid Like The Plague: After Earth - At first, even though I knew it was bad, I thought my primary response was one of indifference. I realised that was my brain blocking out my true emotions, as reviewing it induced mild nausea in recollection of how truly terrible it was. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - After Earth

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Produced by: Caleeb Pinkett
Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith
James Lassiter

Screenplay by: Gary Whitta
M. Night Shyamalan

Story by: Will Smith

Starring: Jaden Smith
Will Smith

Music by: James Newton Howard

Cinematography by: Peter Suschitzky

Editing by: Steven Rosenblum

Studio(s): Overbrook Entertainment
Blinding Edge Pictures
Relativity Media

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Release date(s): May 31, 2013 (United States)
June 7, 2013 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 99 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $130 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $199, 141, 216

Aloha there folks, I'm belated as ever. This is my last review for the month of June and the two films I saw during my sabbatical, and then I'll be following it up with a Film of the Month post. For July, I've already seen The Internship and This Is The End, and have plans to see Man Of Steel, The Act Of Killing (a documentary produced by Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, which I've heard good things of), World War Z, Pacific Rim (which I'm looking to!) and others, so, for all the very latest in movies and what have you, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for analysis is After Earth, also known as (at least to me, anyway!) The Smith Family Robinson, given that the major selling point of the film is a collaboration between Will Smith and his son Jaden, their first onscreen outing together since The Pursuit Of Happyness. Jada Pinkett Smith, wife to Will and mother to Jaden, and Caleeb Pinkett, her brother, also have producing credits alongside Will Smith's regular producing collaborator James Lassiter, which lets you know that this is, for all intents and purposes, a family affair. It's also the first directorial work of M. Night Shyamalan since The Last Airbender, a film which continued the ongoing downward spiral of a director who, not ten years ago, was heralded as a contemporary heir to Hitchcock and one of the most exciting people in Hollywood. After producing 2010's Devil, a serviceable horror-thriller, Shyamalan was roped into doing this by Will Smith, both of whom had planned on working together in the past. Basic synopsis here, a vessel, commanded by General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) crash lands on Earth, the difference being that this is one thousand years after humans were forced to abandon the plant after a series of cataclysmic events, and the place is now inhabited by highly evolved creatures that, though blind, are able to smell human fear and kill them as a result. Raige is injured in the crash landing, and it is up to his son Kitai (Jaden Smith), who failed to become a member of The Ranger Corps as a result of recklessness, shaming his Ranger father, to recover a rescue beacon to have them be saved and live up to his father's reputation and need to be acknowledged by him. I'm done with that, don't get me started on all that 'ghosting' shit!

To start with the good about After Earth (and to be frank, there ain't much), I'm actually going to compliment director M. Night Shymalan. The material he has to work with isn't exactly up to scratch, but you can tell he's doing his best with it, even if he has been reduced to a director-for-hire role. After Earth could really have been one of the worst films ever made, but Shymalan does at least attempt to keep some semblance of control. Also, even if it's not particularly well-executed, the central father-son in peril premise is enough to garner a relative degree of interest. Finally, although this is obviously a personal thing with me, I felt for the big giant condor and the stuff with it's chicks. Maybe it's an animal lover thing, but anytime a movie pulls the old 'dog in peril' trope, no matter how many times I see it, I still go with it, so, wahey, you got me again!

However, that is about as much as I can manage to say in favour of After Earth as it is otherwise a uniformly terrible film. The reason I say 'uniform' is because it's not a film that, no matter how bad, makes me actively angry, but rather one that is just consistently boring. I tell a lie, bland is probably a more appropriate word in relation to this film. To start with the issues, and I'm not going to stay on the script as usual, because there are so many things wrong here, but the script is a mess. The basil exposition stuff in the first act takes way too long to explain, and as a result, it takes approximately thirty minutes before the film actually gets going, and when it does, boy does it move in predictable ways. I don't know if Gary Whitta and Shyamalan could have written a more dull, textbook script, because this just takes the single most predictable route possible, and it's not like they even gave this predictable route a bit of character along the way. Right down to the dialogue, it's things that we are all well and truly familiar with. Also, I'm not going to rag the actors too much (and I'm certainly not going down the nepotism route, which is a ridiculous tabloid-esque form of journalistic mud-slinging), but at what point was it decided they would talk like they do? After one thousand years, it's understandable that human speech patterns would change, hell, they probably wouldn't even be speaking English, but do the Smith's really have to talk like a bunch of stilted mannequins? I think HAL 9000 had more character, and this is me talking about Will Smith, a man who sweats charisma! Although Will's the star, it's Jaden's movie, and frankly, he fails to get across to me the necessary emotional curve that his character is meant to be going through. In fact, his depiction of Kitai comes across as pathetic and irritating, also problematic that the script doesn't do anything to convince us that the character is something worth rooting for ("not going to rag the actors too much..." hmm?). The other main outstanding issue with the film for me is that, despite being a film with a budget of $130 million (that's a whole hundred million more than District 9's $30 million budget), technically the whole thing looks pretty low-rent. The actual ship itself before crashing looks something in between rejected models for 2001: A Space Odyssey with flimsy bits of cardboard and paper maiche spray painted brown. Also, I know it's meant to be a tight space, but really, you're going to have a slightly elevated walkway at one point? Talk about undercutting practicality! Also, some of the props look decidedly like a contemporary equivalent to the kind of things you'd find in 1950s science-fiction b-movies like Teenagers From Outer Space (an underrated pic, I might add). I mean, the things that Kitai has to use every twelve hours in order to breath in Earth's atmosphere (which really could have been done as capsules or something) look like they've essentially inserted egg yolk into two ceramic dishes glued together! Also, once we're off on our journey, although there was (purportedly) a good bit of location shooting done in Costa Rica and Switzerland, most of it has that look we associate with a sound stage, with not a whole lot of actual location work being done. Problematic too is Peter Suschitzky's cinematography. A fine d.p., unfortunately here not only does he go for digital photography, which undercuts the low-rent effects and production design, the film is also pretty brightly lit, so that we can actually see how poor some of the film looks. What he should have done is played the illusionist and gone for a lot of low-key lighting, so that we were unable to see how shoddy the overall thing looked. I'm sure I could point out more issues with the film, but frankly I feel burnt as I had etched most of the movie from my memory and recalling it has now given me mild nausea.

What I have come to realise in the course of this review is that although After Earth is a film that does not actively prod me and annoy me into thinking it's a bad film like something along the lines of Project X, a film that is absolutely hateful but to get too angry about would be to do it a compliment. However, despite a very few little things that save it from being one of the worst films I have ever reviewed, After Earth is still a godawful wreck of a film that is so bland, so dull, so without character as induce mild nausea in yours truly just recalling it, that it's not far off being one of the worst. Dull, dull, dull, bland, bland, bland, blah, blah, blah!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 1.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Haven't you got the point (nausea!)

P.S. I had to go all the way back to Vampires Suck in 2010 to gauge how bad I thought this film was! Incidentally, if you google The Thin White Dude's Reviews and Vampires Suck together, you can find my spamming of the official Facebook with my review which got me banned from the page and abuse reported against me. Toodles!